Belief: The End of Logic?

I HAD AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION recently with a friend. We were comparing our different belief systems. While cordial, the conversation began to get heated when I pointed out several long-standing, bigoted beliefs inherent to his religion, which he explained as one of those things that could not be answered, because "God's ways are not our ways." The following exchange occurred:

ME: But you believe we are made in God's image, don't you?

MY FRIEND: Yes, but we're a poor reflection of God. We cannot comprehend His methods, much less His mind.

ME: But if God made us, then we are a result of His making, and our flaws and inability to comprehend His ways is a function of that design. In short, it's His fault we cannot grasp His mind, isn't it?

My friend shrugged, but my point was crucial to the rest of our discussion. I went on to say that, leaving aside our poor understanding of God, He certainly would know us well enough to tailor-make our thinking processes so we could understand, as best we are capable, His methodology and intentions.

MY FRIEND: Why is this important?

ME: Because I pointed out a serious flaw in your religion--the bigotry I mentioned earlier--and you blamed it on God. But I wonder: hasn't God himself said He is no respecter of perons? If so, why should we be? Why should we differentiate between black and white, male and female, bond and free, etcetera?

MY FRIEND: Well, that's where logic must give way to faith. I see things that seem wrong, but the Spirit whispers to my soul that there is an underlying reason for it that I cannot understand. Someday, maybe, but for now . . . that's what faith is all about.

ME: So you're saying that when we reach the limits of logic--like when I point out that if God is no respecter of persons and that a religion that purports to worship God is a respecter of persons--that the contradiction between the two can only be explained by the word "faith"?

MY FRIEND: Yes. Faith supercedes logic. Again, we cannot know the mind of God or His reasons.

ME: For the moment, I'll accept your point, which seems to be this: there are things outside or beyond reason that we must simply accept on faith.


ME: And the reason we can do so is that we receive a "burning" sensation in our hearts when we accept the bigotry, for example, as something we simply cannot understand.

MY FRIEND: "Burning" is one way God's influence--the Holy Spirit--is felt. God has many ways of speaking to us: a still, small voice in our minds, a burning in our bosom, a sense of rightness in our hearts--even in the face of man's logic that might contradict the feeling.

ME: So, at times like this, when you find yourself at the "end" of logic, and these feelings kick in, you are willing to disregard logic because you believe you've "felt" the Holy Spirit "whispering" a greater truth to you?

MY FRIEND: Yes. An extra-logic truth, if you will, that we cannot comprehend with our minds.

ME: Fine, but what is this "burning in your bosom" based on? I know you've said it is a feeling, but why do you think it feels "right" as opposed to feeling "wrong"?

MY FRIEND: I'm not sure I can explain; it may be beyond the limits of language. But I know it comes from God.

ME: But how do you know it?

MY FRIEND: Because it feels right.

ME: So there is a logic at work here, after all: it feels right according to some standard, some rationale. When the Spirit speaks to you, it fills you with peace and light, doesn't it?

MY FRIEND: Yes, it does! It feels, as I said, right.

ME: And whatever fills you with peace and light--knowledge and wisdom, I think you mean--must be of God.

MY FRIEND: Yes, because it prompts me to do good, to do right.

ME: So that is a form of logic. To put a spin on the popular mantra: If it feels right, do it!

MY FRIEND: I suppose. The Spirit of God always encourages us, as Lincoln said, to follow the "better angels of our nature."

ME: So when I use logic to support my belief that bigotry is wrong, isn't that logic really based on a feeling that the Spirit whispered to me? In other words, aren't many of man's ethics a result of the "still, small voice" gently communicating right and wrong to us?

MY FRIEND: I'm sure they are.

ME: So, even though I tend to think of myself as living primarily by logic, and, in cases like this, you live by feelings, aren't we both influenced by the same Spirit which dictates the parameters of our beliefs? Aren't we really using the same Spirit to determine right and wrong?

MY FRIEND: I suppose we are, if we listen to it.

ME: Yes, that is the key. So here's the nut of it: if the Spirit of God has informed both our standards as to what constitutes bigotry, isn't it wrong to believe that those standards are going to change when one leaves logic and enters the realm of faith? If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, isn't His Spirit also changeless? In short, wouldn't God speak the same, both to our minds (logic) and our hearts (feeling)?

MY FRIEND: I suppose He would.

* * *

I take some liberty here with our conversation. My friend never quite admitted that logic and faith are based on the same thing: an ethic burned into mankind's hearts and minds that have formed the basis of our life on earth for thousands of years. He never admitted that to use the old excuse for our failure to exact from religion the same standards we exact from ourselves is the worst sort of self-dealing; we do ourselves a massive injustice when we allow religion (and, by extension, God) to operate by standards that are less than those we expect from ourselves. In fine, my friend, a good, honorable man, was letting himself and his church off the hook from a great wrong (bigotry) by blaming it on God, who, I'm sure, is neither bigoted nor uncommunicative to us mortals about the wrongfulness of bigotry.

But men do not always listen to their "better angels" and must somehow rationalize their wicked behavior. As any child will do, they blame their parents for their troubles, oftimes for many years after they themselves have grown to adulthood.

So to say that God endorses bigotry is . . . faithless.